It was rumors like these that prompted Renew Yoga owner, Pamela Maldonado, to take action before she opened her business upstairs. “We were told that the Lan Mart was probably haunted,” Maldonado explains, “so I asked four of my reiki friends to help me smudge the studio. Smudging is a clearing ritual that removes negative energy. I am very sensitive to energy and in all the years I have worked here I’ve felt no negative energy.”
Despite being directly next door to Maldonado’s yoga studio, Anne Bishop is convinced that strange things are afoot in the Lan Mart. She says the most common indication is her ceiling fans turning on and off of their own afford. “I’m always like, ‘Well, that’s the ghost!'” Bishop laughs. “I do feel a presence sometimes. A couple of times, I’ve hung something up in my studio and just immediately received this mass of energy of ‘No, don’t put that there.’ And then it ends up falling out of the wall.”
Joanne Hansen, co-owner of the Lan Mart’s popular Old Chicago Pizza, believes that one strong presence upstairs may be her husband, who died in 2016 after running the restaurant for 38 years. “Michael was a man with a big personality and his presence is still to be felt, especially after closing,” she says.
The strangest encounter I heard from Lan Mart employees happened to Drew Washer, who owns and runs the ground floor variety store Heebe Jeebe. At the time, she was running a seasonal Halloween store upstairs. “I was always kind of creeped out up there,” she says. “The light switch was on the far door from where I had to walk out. So at night, I would turn it off and just run really fast.
“One morning before opening,” Washer continues, “I saw this very classic looking apparition. It passed by my door, moved down the hallway and turned right towards the stairs. It was a really strange image.”
Bishop tells me that a visiting Feng Shui practitioner was also drawn to those stairs, advising her to put plants around them in an effort to clear “challenging energy.” Bishop has been doing so ever since, though the Feng Shui expert didn’t offer any clues as to what might have happened there.
With a history as long as the Lan Mart’s, it could be just about anything.
The Lan Mart dates back to 1876, when a man named George Pury built a three-story hotel on a block that had, for years, been part of Petaluma’s burgeoning Chinatown. Its construction began in the middle of a concerted effort to push Chinese workers out of Petaluma, and indeed, all of Sonoma County. Mass immigration—prompted by both the gold rush and the construction work offered on Charles Crocker’s railroad—was openly talked about at the time as “the Chinese problem.” At one point, the Petaluma Argus newspaper proposed a boycott on any business hiring Chinese workers, and town leaders threatened to cut off the water supply to the “Chinese District.”